While this is certainly not one of Polanski's finest, it is admittedly
a damn funny effort. As a warning, don't expect any real substance to
this film. It's ridiculous and trivial, but there are laughs
throughout. "What?" fills the gap for those who get a kick out of 70's
porn plots, but get bored during the sex scenes. This being said, know
that it can easily offend. Expect a movie that will get giggles out of
a rape scene. It is a no holds barred comedy that breaks ground that
"Happiness" will sweep in to master.
Polanski combines his psychedelic absurdity of "The Magic Christian" with the stark strangeness that he would later delve into in "The Tenant." It is a valiant attempt to create a surreal sexual comedy. For most films, the lack of any depth to the characters will turn away even the most devoted viewer; but "What?" creates entertaining caricatures that bobble and bump into one another, with surprisingly charming results. It is difficult to say whether this is a good film or not, albeit it is shot beautifully, and leaves the viewer with many a chortle, but compared to the brilliance of his other films it seems a bit empty. The film can be best likened to a scarred and matted alley cat that loves to come and visit. It is rough on the edges and not nice to the touch, but the affection it gives leaves the soft spots all the more appealing.
A young American woman (Sydne Rome) traveling through Italy finds herself in a strange Mediterranean villa where nothing seems right. Her visit becomes an absurd, decadent, oversexed version of "Alice in Wonderland", with Marcello Mastroianni as the maddest of mad hatters and Roman Polanski a kinky March hare.
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